The U.S. Navy just conducted a second sail-by in the South China Sea 12 nautical miles away from China-controlled islands.
Beijing issued a stern rebuke almost immediately after the Navy’s freedom of navigation exercise, which has finally taken place as a follow-up to the Obama administration’s previous exercise Oct. 27, 2015. These exercises were supposed to be routine, prompting GOP Sen. [crscore]John McCain[/crscore] in early January to complain about the delays. For McCain, the delays allow China to continue asserting illicit claims of sovereignty in the region. He called the Obama administration’s dallying “disappointing yet hardly surprising.”
Without informing China in advance, the USS Curtis Wilbur, a guided missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island Jan. 30, The Associated Press reports.
“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants, China, Taiwan and Vietnam, to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban told The Free Beacon.
This island is part of the Paracel chain, which is claimed by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. Triton Island’s relationship to China dates back to 1974 when it seized the island from South Vietnam.
Aside from the Paracel chain, China claims virtually everything in the South China Sea as its sovereign territory. The U.S. has no official position on sovereignty claims between competing powers in the region, but has emphasized it will not allow any country to block the use of sea and airspace guaranteed by international law.
According to Chinese defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun in the Xinhua News Agency, the expedition of the USS Curtis Wilbur “severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region’ s peace and stability.”
The People’s Liberation Army supposedly kicked out the navy destroyer which was in Chinese territorial waters, the Chinese defense ministry said.
“The Chinese troops stationed at the islands and naval ships and airplanes made an immediate response, took countermeasures and conducted identification and verification against the U.S. warship,” defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said in a statement.
One U.S. defense official, however, told The Free Beacon that there wasn’t a single Chinese naval ship in sight during the operation.
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